The King v. Burwell challenge is an impressive blow for the preposterous idea that judges should scold legislators for exhibiting awkward statutory draftsmanship. The obvious venue for anyone genuinely concerned that the ACA text doesn’t technically authorize insurance subsidies in states that haven’t set up their own exchanges is Congress. With a single sentence, Congress could stipulate that the law does indeed authorize premium subsidies in exchanges established by both states and the federal government.
Congress only leaves this in the Supreme Court’s hands if it wants the Court to break Obamacare, and many Republicans in Congress openly admit that this is their hope.
The guardians of such things consider it rude and improper for the president to lecture or lobby the Supreme Court in a State of the Union address, as Obama did in 2010 when he scolded the justices for gutting campaign finance law. But Obama needn’t address the justices directly. Only legislators, and perhaps, the unsavory actors asking the Court to accomplish for them what they’ve failed to accomplish through political channels.
The two-part message would combine classic State of the Union positivity with a clear warning to conservatives to be careful what they wish for. First, the sensible proposition: Congress should take this issue out of the Court’s hands. It makes no sense to leave nine million insurance beneficiaries and the individual and small group health insurance markets in three dozen states facing tremendous uncertainty at the whim of the Court. If Congress were to pass a one sentence bill affirming what everyone knows, it would moot the case, and thus end the uncertainty.
But of course, Republicans will never do that. There's zero chance that this will happen, because as the last three elections have shown, American voters have no interest in punishing the GOP for terrible behavior.
There are a number of reasons why, but the main one is that Republicans have convinced a lot of voters that President Obama's six years in office have been one long handout to minorities, specifically at the expense of white Americans. And there's no bigger "handout" in this category than Obamacare.
That's not what it actually does of course. Kentucky a state that's 88% white and has the most effective Obamacare state exchange in the country in Kynect is proof of that. But the hatred here for the program helped Mitch McConnell to a 16 point win in November, even though the people using it are very happy with it.
The Republican Congress is betting they won't have to lift a finger. I'm not so certain they will have to myself.